Dell to partner with Microsoft, Novell on interoperability

Dell has joined Microsoft and Novell in their business collaboration that is designed to provide greater interoperability between Windows and SUSE Linux and give customers on both sides intellectual property assurance.

Under the agreement to be announced May 7, Dell will buy SUSE Linux Enterprise Server certificates from Microsoft that it will make available to its customers.

It will also establish a services and marketing program to migrate current Linux users who are not Dell Linux customers to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Rick Becker, senior vice president of strategic solutions for Dell's product group, told eWEEK.

Dell will also establish a dedicated customer marketing team for migrating current Linux users to SUSE Linux. This effort will focus on three areas: interoperability workshops, migration proof-of-concepts and migration services, he said.

"We are excited about the Microsoft-Novell collaboration because it enables Dell to offer our customers an easy path to simplifying the management of their information technology," he said.

Microsoft and Novell announced on Nov. 2 a set of broad collaboration agreements to build, market and support a series of new solutions that will make Novell and Microsoft products work better together, along with an agreement to provide each other's customers with patent coverage for their respective products.

Susan Heystee, vice president and general manager of global strategic alliances at Novell, told eWEEK that she is pleased to have Dell as the first major global partner to agree to partner and work with both companies around interoperability.

Dell will be going to market with these interoperability solutions, while also providing added value for its enterprise customers, she said.

"We have heard back from our customers in the six months since Novell and Microsoft entered into this agreement, and they have told us they wanted a partner like Dell, who could not only provide the solutions around the whole interoperability and IP assurance areas to their enterprise customers, but also provide global services and support around those solutions," she said.

Dell's Becker said that the interoperability work Microsoft and Novell are doing between Windows and Linux will radically reduce the complexity for customers deploying heterogeneous environments. Those customers want to be able to deploy their application stacks on both Windows and Linux without any concerns or ramifications from the operating system providers, he said.

"Our customers have also told us that IP assurance is a very big issue for them, and they want to know that Dell and our partners will all stand behind the products we sell. So now we can, with confidence, extend the assurance and peace of mind that our customers are asking for when deploying both Windows and Linux into their data center," Becker said.

As such, Dell will establish a hardware program for migrating existing nonsubscribing Dell Linux users to a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. "So as to help them do that, we are going to focus on interoperability workshops and help them with migration proof-of-concepts. When we find the right solution for their heterogeneous environments, we are then going to help them with migration services, which will be fee-based," he said.

"The interoperability work between Microsoft and Novell around Web services, Office management and virtualization is critical as customers move to optimize their data centers. Having common interoperability APIs greatly simplifies the work they have to do to deploy their solutions," Becker said.

Asked if the deal means Dell will now become technically involved in the interoperability work under way between Microsoft and Novell, Becker said the company is already deeply technically involved in the optimisation of Windows on its platform as well as with the optimization of Linux and open-source solutions. "We plan to be technically involved in delivering the interoperability services around this program," he said.

The deal will not affect Dell's relationship with the other Linux vendors, including Red Hat and Ubuntu, he said, noting that the company is focused on delivering standard-based technology solutions and providing customer choice, and that this is just another choice for them.

In fact, Dell and Canonical announced a partnership on May 1 that will see the hardware company ship Ubuntu Linux preinstalled on some of its desktop and laptop computers.

"We will always provide our customers the widest standard-based offering, and this deal is specifically targeted at Linux users who are not current Dell Linux customers. As the first major system provider to join the Microsoft/Novell collaboration, we are taking a leadership position and simplifying the IT that our customers deploy today," he said.

Asked if Dell is concerned about clauses in the latest draft of the GNU GPL (General Public License) Version 3 that could prohibit such deals going forward, Becker deflected the question to Novell's Heystee, who noted that GPL 3 is an ongoing process and one that she did not want to comment on.

"But, to be clear, it was not necessary for us to enter into a patent or IP agreement for this deal to happen," she said.

Susan Hauser, general manager of strategic partnerships and licensing at Microsoft, told eWEEK that the deal with Dell adds additional value for customers, who want to run heterogeneous environments and have their vendors help them manage those environments, while providing IP assurance.

Asked whether other hardware vendors are being targeted for similar deals, Heystee said additional partnerships could be considered down the road, but the current focus is to launch and work with Dell.

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